Blue wall (politics)

Last updated on 14 July 2017

"Blue wall" is a term that has been used by some political analysts and pundits referring to the theory that in Presidential elections in the United States, the Democratic Party had, between the 1992 and 2012 presidential elections, established such an advantage in many, mostly contiguous (hence "wall"), states that the electoral map made a Republican victory an uphill battle from the start. George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election and the 2004 presidential election, but did so by winning states outside of the blue wall. The 2016 election showed this wall was not impregnable, when Republican candidate Donald Trump won three previously solidly Democratic states in the area referred to as the Rust Belt, as well as one electoral vote from a previously Democratic fourth state.

The term "blue wall" and "red wall" refer to the colors associated with the Democratic and Republican Parties, respectively.

Blue Wall states 1992-2012 map.svg
Blue wall states, 1992–2012

Creation of the term

Ronald Brownstein describes the blue wall as "the 18 states that form the blue wall, a term I coined in 2009"[1] After the 2012 presidential election, Paul Steinhauser called "blue wall […] the cluster of eastern, Midwest and western states that have traditionally gone Democratic."[2] The earliest description of the forces creating the blue wall comes from a Houston Chronicle blogger, Chris Ladd.[3] A Republican, Ladd wrote in November 2014 that the seemingly impressive Republican win in the 2014 mid-term elections had overshadowed another trend apparent in the results – a demographic/geographic collapse. The blue wall was a Democratic demographic lock on the Electoral College resulting from the Republican Party's (GOP) narrowing focus on the interests of white, rural, and Southern voters. Ladd's analysis became popular when MSNBC commentator Lawrence O'Donnell featured it on a post-election episode of his show The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.[4]

A similar "red wall," behind which lie states solidly Republican, has also been posited to exist. But having fewer votes, it would be theoretically easier for a Democratic presidential candidate to win without breaching it. The Republican party has won just 13 states in each of the last 6 election cycles, totaling 102 electoral votes.

States behind the blue wall

Behind this "blue wall" lay states, many carrying a relatively high number of electoral votes, which appeared to be solidly behind the Democratic Party, at least on the national level, and which a Republican presidential candidate appeared likely to have to write off, seeking a total of 270 electoral votes from other regions. States behind this wall lay generally in the Northeastern United States, and the West Coast of the United States, and included some of the Great Lakes states. In each of the 6 presidential election cycles prior to 2016, the Democratic Party had won 18 of these states (as well as the District of Columbia), totaling 242 of the necessary 270 votes need to win. The "big three" Democratic stronghold states include California, New York, and Illinois.

States falling behind this blue wall generally included those the Democrats had carried since the 1992 presidential election until the 2016 presidential election[5][6] that included (in order of decreasing population and followed by number of electoral votes): California (55), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Maryland (10), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), Oregon (7), Connecticut (7), Hawaii (4), Maine (4), Rhode Island (4), Delaware (3), and Vermont (3), as well as Washington, D.C. (3). The last time any of these states cast their votes for the Republican presidential candidate before 2016 was when George H. W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii, and Rhode Island have voted Democratic since Ronald Reagan's landslide in 1984. One of these states, Minnesota, has not been carried by a Republican presidential candidate since 1972. (The District of Columbia has voted for the Democratic candidate in every election since it was admitted to the electoral college for the 1964 election.)

It is possible that in a prospective Seventh Party System (period of electoral shift), Nevada (6), Colorado (9), Virginia (13), New Hampshire (4), and New Mexico (5) will join the blue wall, all of which have voted Democratic since George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, as Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire have only voted Republican for George Bush. Iowa is a possible contender, dependent on whether Democrats can bounce back after Donald Trump's 51-42 win there.

Red wall

Red Wall states 1980-2016 map.svg
Red wall states, 1980–2016

The states which Republicans have won in the last 7 cycles include Texas (38), Alabama (9), South Carolina (9), Oklahoma (7), Mississippi (6), Utah (6), Kansas (6), Nebraska (4), Idaho (4), South Dakota (3), North Dakota (3), Alaska (3), and Wyoming (3), giving a total of 102 votes. States with a 6-out-of-7 Republican record include Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), Arizona (11), Indiana (11), and Montana (3) for a total of 158 electoral votes. Much of the Southern United States are probably safely Republican as well, as 6 other states from that general region have not voted for a Democrat since southerner Bill Clinton in 1996, and the Deep South is solidly Republican in their senators and governors. In a Seventh Party System, it is possible many other states could join the red wall, especially states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, both of which have gone to the GOP in the last five presidential elections, with Kentucky voting Republican by at least 15 percentage points in each election and West Virginia giving Donald Trump his second-largest victory margin in 2016 (behind Wyoming).

Demise of the blue wall

Blue Wall fall.svg
States that traditionally voted blue (Democrat), but voted Republican in 2016 are marked in red. Minnesota (a historic blue wall state), was won by Democrats by only 44,765 votes in 2016.

The Democratic "lock" on these states had been called into question prior to 2016, as several had been competitive in recent elections, and many had Republicans currently holding elected statewide office, generally either senator or governor.[7] Blue wall states with a Republican senator included Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Maine. Those with a Republican governor included Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Maine. In addition to these 18 states, three others, Iowa, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, had only voted for the Republican once in the same 6 election cycles, giving their votes to George W. Bush in either 2000 or 2004. If included in the total, the votes behind the blue wall numbered 257, just 13 short of what is needed to win. In 2016, the blue wall showed some cracks, and went down from 242 electoral votes to 195. Some in the mainstream media did, however, suspect the Democrats might lose Pennsylvania.

Nate Silver had criticized the idea of the blue wall, pointing to a larger "red wall" of states that voted Republican from 1968 to 1988. He argued that the blue wall simply represented a "pretty good run" in elections, and that relatively minor gains in the popular vote could "flip" some of its states to Republican.[8] This was seen in the 2016 election, where voters from manufacturing states traditionally behind the blue wall voted for Donald Trump, providing him the victory in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In presidential elections

Presidential votes in blue wall states since 1876
Year California Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Hawaii Illinois Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota New Jersey New York Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island Vermont Washington Wisconsin
1876 Hayes Tilden Tilden No election[a] No election[b] Hayes Hayes Tilden Hayes Hayes Hayes Tilden Tilden Hayes Hayes Hayes Hayes No election[c] Hayes
1880 Hancock Garfield Hancock No election No election Garfield Garfield Hancock Garfield Garfield Garfield Hancock Garfield Garfield Garfield Garfield Garfield No election Garfield
1884 Blaine Cleveland Cleveland No election No election Blaine Blaine Cleveland Blaine Blaine Blaine Cleveland Cleveland Blaine Blaine Blaine Blaine No election Blaine
1888 Harrison Cleveland Cleveland No election No election Harrison Harrison Cleveland Harrison Harrison Harrison Cleveland Harrison Harrison Harrison Harrison Harrison No election Harrison
1892 Cleveland Cleveland Cleveland No election No election Cleveland Harrison Cleveland Harrison Harrison Harrison Cleveland Cleveland Harrison Harrison Harrison Harrison Harrison Cleveland
1896 McKinley McKinley McKinley No election No election McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley Bryan McKinley
1900 McKinley McKinley McKinley No election No election McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley McKinley
1904 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt No election No election Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt
1908 Taft Taft Taft No election No election Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft Taft
1912 Roosevelt Wilson Wilson No election No election Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Roosevelt Roosevelt Wilson Wilson Wilson Roosevelt Wilson Taft Roosevelt Wilson
1916 Wilson Hughes Hughes No election No election Hughes Hughes Wilson Hughes Hughes Hughes Hughes Hughes Hughes Hughes Hughes Hughes Wilson Hughes
1920 Harding Harding Harding No election No election Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding Harding
1924 Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge No election No election Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge La Follette
1928 Hoover Hoover Hoover No election No election Hoover Hoover Hoover Smith Hoover Hoover Hoover Hoover Hoover Hoover Smith Hoover Hoover Hoover
1932 Roosevelt Hoover Hoover No election No election Roosevelt Hoover Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Hoover Roosevelt Hoover Roosevelt Roosevelt
1936 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt No election No election Roosevelt Landon Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Landon Roosevelt Roosevelt
1940 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt No election No election Roosevelt Willkie Roosevelt Roosevelt Willkie Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Willkie Roosevelt Roosevelt
1944 Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt No election No election Roosevelt Dewey Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Roosevelt Dewey Roosevelt Dewey
1948 Truman Dewey Dewey No election No election Truman Dewey Dewey Truman Dewey Truman Dewey Dewey Dewey Dewey Truman Dewey Truman Truman
1952 Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower No election No election Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower
1956 Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower No election No election Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower
1960 Nixon Kennedy Kennedy No election Kennedy Kennedy Nixon Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy Nixon Kennedy Kennedy Nixon Nixon Nixon
1964 Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson
1968 Nixon Humphrey Nixon Humphrey Humphrey Nixon Humphrey Humphrey Humphrey Humphrey Humphrey Nixon Humphrey Nixon Humphrey Humphrey Nixon Humphrey Nixon
1972 Nixon Nixon Nixon McGovern Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon McGovern Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon
1976 Ford Ford Carter Carter Carter Ford Ford Carter Carter Ford Carter Ford Carter Ford Carter Carter Ford Ford Carter
1980 Reagan Reagan Reagan Carter Carter Reagan Reagan Carter Reagan Reagan Carter Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Carter Reagan Reagan Reagan
1984 Reagan Reagan Reagan Mondale Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Mondale Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan
1988 Bush Bush Bush Dukakis Dukakis Bush Bush Bush Dukakis Bush Dukakis Bush Dukakis Dukakis Bush Dukakis Bush Dukakis Dukakis
1992 Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton
1996 Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton
2000 Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore Gore
2004 Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry Kerry
2008 Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama
2012 Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama
2016 Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Trump Clinton Clinton Clinton Clinton Trump Clinton Clinton Clinton Trump
Year California Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Hawaii Illinois Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota New Jersey New York Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island Vermont Washington Wisconsin
Key
Democratic Party nominee
Republican Party nominee
Third-party nominee

Bold denotes candidates elected as president

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ The District of Columbia did not vote in presidential elections until 1964, after ratification of the 23rd Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  2. ^ Hawaii was not a state until 1959 and did not vote in presidential elections until 1960.
  3. ^ Washington was not a state until 1889 and did not vote in presidential elections until 1892.

External links

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